If a sparkling diamond is still a girl’s best friend, then a visit to North America’s diamond capital is definitely in the stars.
Yellowknife, the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories, is revered as the diamond capital of North America and is a lucrative mining region. The city has plenty of other glitzy things that will grab your attention too.
It’s known as the “Land of the Midnight Sun” and the Aurora capital of North America. Both are wondrous spectacles one can observe seasonally. The former happens in summer when 24 hours of daylight overtakes the Great White North while the latter is a natural celestial phenomenon of luminescent colours known as the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis that paints the night sky and is best viewed during winter.
Don’t think the fun stops at night either. By day, the city of Yellowknife turns into a vibrant hub. Locals and visitors mix and mingle at favourite watering holes. Performers showcase original productions in the neatest venues and those trekkers in search of wanderlust are ready to depart this former outpost into the remotest regions imaginable.
Here’s a look at things to do around Yellowknife by day and by night.
Participate in a workshop at the Old Town Glassworks. Owner Matthew Grogono saw discarded bottles strewn in the waste streams and took a negative (the garbage) and made it into a positive (original art) when he decided to open this decorative glass making business.
For a great souvenir, create a unique northern design and sandblast the pattern onto a drinking glass. The Yellowknife Guilds of Arts and Crafts teaches crafts skills in various media such as stained glass, silver and clay. Classes are for guild members only but membership is reasonable ($30 for adults) and class fees are extra.
This 18-hole sand course that stretches over scenic rock known as the Yellowknife Golf Club is a public course with hazards and sharp doglegs.
The golf course established by golf lovers in 1948 who hauled an old DC-3 fuselage onto the rocky stretch for their club house shows the ingenuity of the early days.
No need to worry about using a beat up old aircraft as a club house as golfers will find a new clubhouse with food and bar service, pro shop, and golf cart rentals.
It’s the old saying, “If you can’t beat’em, join’em” hardy folk there embrace the last of the snow blast in March with some well-earned festivals.
After the long winter, many come out to celebrate the Snow King festival at his snow castle. Parents love it because it’s good family fun with lots of music, arts and outdoor activities. Artists love it because they get a chance to perform in a snow castle.
Another crowd pleaser in March is the annual Yellowknife Dog Derby, a three-day 150 mile sled dog race on Great Slave Lake.
Head to Old Town for a trip down memory lane as this area is rife with historic cabins and later climb the Bush Pilots’ Monument for a panoramic view of the picturesque Yellowknife Bay.
Inquire about Old Town tours at the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre (phone 867-873-4262). Local guide Rosie with Strong Interpretation, a pre-packaged tour company, offers fascinating tours with such themes as “A Walk in the Past,” “Land of Little Sticks,” and “Shopping in the Boreal Forest.”
Visitors can also download a free guide “Old Town: Heritage Walking Tour of Yellowknife” for a self-guided walking tour.
For outdoor lovers
Whatever your interest, the sky’s the limit when it comes to outdoor fun. The dilemma is settling on one adventure choice with all the selection. In summer popular excursions include cycling, ATV-ing and hiking.
Come winter, it’s time to put on the heavy outer wear and insulated boots for snowmobiling, dogsledding and tobogganing. Snowboarders, skiers and skaters also get in on the action.
Those who wish to embark on the thrilling sled dog ride can contact a local outfitter. Beck’s Kennels boats 150 happy, healthy huskies, one of the largest sled dog kennels in Canada. Owner Grant Beck, a World Champion Dog Musher, has commanded his champion sled dog team around the world.
For Aurora Borealis watchers
Get ready for the dance of the Northern Lights. You need clear skies to see them so visit AstronomyNorth.com for Yellowknife’s latest aurora forecasts. Best tip is to avoid street lights and head out of the city.
Local outfitters offer Northern Lights tours. Northstar Adventures, a local Aboriginal-owned company, take small groups to hunt for the Northern Lights and has winter clothing rental if you’re not warm enough. Meet Joe, the original Aurora Hunter, who is considered one of the best Aurora guides around.
For the social scene
Pub life is popular. The Black Knight bills itself as the only Scottish-style pub in the north. It’s one of those rare places in town that serves Guinness beer on tap and arguably has the biggest whisky selection around. The Gold Range Bar is legendary. The famous watering hole has been immortalized by writers like Canadian best-selling author Mordecai Richler. Listen to live music and try the two-step dance.
Check out the Wild Cat Cafe, an old timey resto that’s been serving prospectors and those with gold fever in their veins since the thirties. Here’s your chance to bite into a cheddar cheese bison burger with all the helpings or order the local fish of the day.
Golfers are anticipating the upcoming 2015 Canadian North Midnight Sun Golf Classic scheduled on June 19-20, the longest days of the year.
It’s midnight madness at the Yellowknife Golf Club during the summer solstice. The tournament starts at 6 pm and gets really interesting at midnight (Midnight Sun) when the two nine-hole shotgun starts.
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